Retired leg spinner Stuart MacGill thinks Australia should play to their strengths by using four pacemen and a spinning allrounder in the upcoming Ashes series in England.
"I feel really, really bad for suggesting this but I have always been a loud advocate for picking your best bowlers," MacGill, a long-time understudy to Shane Warne as Australia's top spin bowling option, told the Australian Associated Press today. "The bowling side have to get 20 wickets, full stop."
MacGill said Marcus North should be selected at No. 6 to add depth to the batting and bowling, with his part-time orthodox spin supporting the quicks.
He said Australia's pace bowling depth had rarely been better and needed to be given a chance to work as a unit, a departure from the usual tendency to play a specialist spin bowler in most conditions.
"Our bowling stocks in terms of quicks, seamers and swing bowlers at the moment are possibly depth-wise ... best of all time," said MacGill, who took 208 wickets in 44 tests during Australia's dominant reign in world cricket. "I can't think of another time when we had that depth and that variety available to us.
"That being the case I think it is really fortunate for Australia that we have Marcus North because what he allows us to do is to maybe play another four bowlers on top of him."
North made his test debut in Australia's recent 2-1 series win in South Africa, when he scored a century and took two wickets in two tests. MacGill said North should retain his place as a genuine allrounder for the Ashes opener at Cardiff on 8 July, giving selectors the space to include fast bowlers Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle in the starting 11.
If selectors wanted to stick with a recognised spinner, MacGill said Nathan Hauritz had an edge over Bryce McGain.
Australia have struggled to find a long-term spin bowling replacement since Warne retired as the leading wicket taker in test cricket after helping reclaim the Ashes in 2007 and MacGill succumbed to injuries and quit the international arena in 2008.
Australia will announce their Ashes squad next week. The top-ranked Australians were upset 2-1 in 2005 - the last time the Ashes series was held in England.